Having a healthy gut is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health. As parents, it is also our responsibility to ensure we are helping our children establish habits that will nourish their gut. Children are especially prone to developing gut health issues due to the overuse of antibiotics, lack of support for breastfeeding among pediatricians and society, poor introduction of solid foods, increase in c-sections and use of antibiotics for mom.
If you don’t know why having a healthy gut is important or are wondering what causes an UNHEALTHY gut then head over to this blog post to read more about Gut Health and Your Immune System.
Symptoms of poor gut health can include:
- Chronic Fatigue
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Chronic Infections
- Decreased Immune System Function
- Food Allergies or Sensitivities
- Depression, Anxiety, ADD/ADHD
- Crohn’s Disease
- Nutritional Deficiencies
- Yeast Infections
- Chronic Diarrhea/Bloating/Constipation
If you suffer from poor gut health, have ever taken antibiotics or if you have not been taking the best care of your body then some gut healing may be in order. Most people with poor gut health have a leaky gut. They go hand in hand in my opinion.
Healing your gut can be a complex issue and it’s best done under the guidance of a functional doctor or a naturopath. The reason for this is because everyone’s body is different. It’s ideal to have testing done to know your individual food sensitivities, your nutritional deficiencies, which bacteria you have an over growth of and the status of your gut wall so the gut healing plan could be tailored to your exact needs. But there are some basic things you can do regardless.
- DIET is the first step to healing your gut. You must eliminate foods that are known inflammatory foods and all processed food. If you have done a food sensitivity panel then you would also eliminate any foods you reacted to on the test.The items listed in the “eliminate” column should be avoided all together. These are foods that are known to be inflammatory and your gut cannot heal if it’s in a constant state of inflammation. These are also foods that feed your opportunistic flora. The foods listed in the “limit” column can be used in moderation.
What to eat: Your diet should consist mainly of fruits, vegetables, fermented foods (kefir, plain yogurt, fermented vegetables), healthy fats (wild caught salmon, coconut oil, flaxseed) and bone broth. Wait I thought you said no dairy? Kefir and yogurt can be made with plant based milks and you can even do water kefir. If you know that you have no troubles with cows milk then milk in the form of fermented foods is okay.
I have a confession…
I do not like ALL vegetables. I tolerate them. So smoothies and juicing are two of the easiest ways to ensure I am meeting my veggie requirement. Everything pictured here went into the juicer.
- SUPPLEMENTS play a very important role in healing your gut. Below are some of the supplements that should be incorporated into your gut healing journey. Testing for nutritional deficiencies (I highly recommend this) would reveal any additional supplements that need to be taken.Probiotics
Restoring your good bacteria is the main goal with gut healing. To do that you must incorporate probiotics. Fermented foods (kefir, plain yogurt, fermented veggies) are a great way to reintroduce good bacteria into your gut. However, taking an additional probiotic daily is also necessary.
*PREbiotics are the food that the probiotics need to thrive. Without adequate prebiotic intake, your probiotics don’t live long. Prebitics are found in the foods you eat. Onion, garlic, asparagus, leeks, banana, oats, apples and flaxseed are all prebiotic rich food. It is best to eat these foods uncooked.
One of the best ways to heal the gut lining is through the use of collagen. Bone broth heals the gut by providing essential amino acids, minerals, and collagen which can help soothe and heal an inflamed and leaky gut. Collagen in powder form is also available and should be taken along with the bone broth. I personally like this brand of collagen.
An amino acid that is used by the cells in your gut lining. These cells cannot repair and grow without their fuel, l-glutamine.
As discussed in Gut Health and Your Immune System, when you develop leaky gut, undigested food easily passes through the gut lining causing a chain reaction of immune responses. Digestive enzymes lower the chance of undigested food traveling through the intestines, causing inflammation and also from passing through the gut lining.
Restore is an excellent supplement that is used to help stregthen the tight junctions of the gut lining. You can read more here about Restore and see dosing from Dr. Mario Brus MD, FAAP.
All of these supplements can be used for children however I advise you work with a medical professional when deciding which supplements to give your child and the proper dosing based on age and weight.
Something I hear often is “I tried probiotics once but they made me sick!” That would be a Herxheimer Reaction!
What is a Herxheimer Reaction?
A Herxheimer reaction, or more technically a Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction, is basically a detox reaction. When you begin gut healing you are killing off an overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast. If the amount of die off is extreme the body cannot filter the endotoxins released during the die off quickly enough and the immune system reacts. Resulting in symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, chills, fatigue, headache, joint pain and more.
A Herxheimer Reaction, while unpleasant, is not a bad thing. In fact it is a good sign that what you are doing is working.
There are some things you can do to help reduce the effects of detoxifying. Starting slow is key. Begin with only the diet for one to two weeks. Simply eliminating sugar can cause some detox symptoms since yeast thrives on sugar. Then add in bone broth. Followed by your fermented foods, followed by your probiotic supplement. Listen to your body and adjust along the way if needed. A sample timeline might look something like this:
Day 1: Begin eliminating inflammatory foods and increasing nutrient dense foods.
Day 7: Begin drinking bone broth. Starting with 1/4 cup a day until you reach 8 ounces a day.
Day 10: Begin incorporating fermented foods.
Day 17: Begin probiotic supplements, additional collagen and l-glutamine.
That time I thought probiotics were going to kill me……
When I started taking probiotics I didn’t have much knowledge of why I was taking them. I just knew that people said it was good for me. So needless to say, I had no idea what a Herxheimer Reaction was.
I was given instructions by…yes okay a Plexus representative, I tried Plexus…to slowly increase by one pill each week until I reached four a day. Well apparently I was either sleep deprived from having an infant still or just didn’t pay attention because I definitely did not follow those directions and long story short I took four probiotic pills without gradually increasing. I had started with 1 then 2 then 3 but did not wait a week in between each increase. I was already feeling some nausea by 2 so by the time I got to 4 pills I thought I was dying.
I had never been so sick. It started with a lot of trips to the bathroom. Along with EXTREME nausea. Followed by disorientation and dizzy spells. My husband had to take the day off work to take care of me. I contemplated an ER trip. I cried a little. Oh my gosh it was horrible and I wish that on no one. So please start slow when you do any type of detox, including healing your gut, and listen to your body. Don’t do what I did!
**DISCLAIMER: This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnosis or treat, as I am not a doctor. Please consult with your physician before starting any new vitamins, diets, or remedies. And always do your own research on natural remedies to ensure that you think they are safe.**